Juventus 1-0 Fiorentina: Bianconeri back to winning ways thanks to late Cuadrado strike

By Sports Desk November 06, 2021

Substitute Juan Cuadrado struck in added time against his former club as Juventus finally broke down 10-man opponents Fiorentina to win 1-0 in Saturday's Serie A clash.

Juve were on the verge of going a fourth league game without a victory when Cuadrado, on the field for just 13 minutes, beat Pietro Terracciano at his near post late on.

The hosts had struggled for large parts of the contest but momentum swung in their favour when Nikola Milenkovic was sent off 17 minutes from time.

After Federico Chiesa hit the bar and Alvaro Morata had a goal ruled out for offside, Cuadrado found a way through to lift Juve level on points with their opponents in eighth place.

 

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  • Does Derrick Henry's return matter for the Titans? Does Derrick Henry's return matter for the Titans?

    Despite claiming the number one seed in the AFC, there has not been much hype around the Tennessee Titans ahead of the start of their playoff campaign.

    After they each exploded for five-touchdown performances in the Wild Card Round, most of the attention on the AFC side of the postseason has focused on the rematch between Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Kansas City Chiefs counterpart Patrick Mahomes.

    Yet there is a 6ft 3in, 247-pound reason to pay attention to the Titans as they face Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals in the Divisional Round.

    Running back Derrick Henry's season appeared to be over when he suffered a Jones fracture in his foot in the Titans' Week 8 clash with the Indianapolis Colts.

    But he was activated from injured reserve this week and is in line to make his return for the visit of the Bengals as the Titans look to reach the AFC Championship Game for the second time in three seasons.

    A two-time rushing champion, on the surface Henry's value to the Tennessee offense is obvious as an explosive powerhouse back who when healthy this season was threatening Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing yards record.

    However, with the Titans continuing to excel on the ground even after Henry's injury, it is fair to ask: how much does his return actually matter?

    A slight drop-off

    If you looked solely at the raw numbers, it would be easy to answer that question in the affirmative.

    Between Weeks 1 and 8, when Henry was on the field, the Titans were fourth in the NFL with 147.6 rushing yards per game.

    After he went down injured, that average dropped to 135.9 yards per game, though that was still good enough to put them sixth in the league.

    In other words, Henry was worth nearly 12 extra rushing yards - or one explosive run - a game to the Titans.

    But in the grand scheme of things, that is a negligible difference and the counting statistics point to Tennessee still possessing an elite rushing attack even without Henry.

    And a more granular look at the performance of Henry and the two backs that assumed the bulk of the workload in his absence, D'Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard, also suggests there was not much of a drop-off when he left the lineup.

    Henry low on power?

    Henry's fearsome reputation as the most overpowering running back in the NFL is one earned off the back of a string of highlight-reel runs comprising brute force and remarkable open-field speed for a man of his size.

    More than simply bouncing off defenders, Henry is a back who can run them over at will.

    That makes his numbers in terms of after-contact yardage this season extremely surprising.

    Henry averaged 1.87 yards after contact per attempt in the regular season, below the league average of 1.95, with Foreman (1.92) outperforming him.

    His average of 3.05 yards per rush attempt on carries where then was a run disruption by a defender was on the right side of the ledger. The league average in the regular season was 2.88 yards per carry.

    Yet his efforts in that regard were inferior to those of both Foreman and Hilliard. Foreman averaged 3.40 yards per attempt when faced with a run disruption and Hilliard went beyond that with 4.03 yards per carry in those situations.

    Their efficiency in that area is in part down to a smaller sample size, Henry carried the ball 219 times this season compared to 133 rush attempts for Foreman and 56 for Hilliard.

    Still, Foreman and Hilliard got enough run in his absence to indicate that they were actually superior to Henry when it came to turning potential negative plays into gains for Tennessee.

    In fact, Henry's most substantial contribution may not be what he does with the ball in his hands, but the influence the threat of him carrying it has on opposing defenses.

    A play-action asset

    He might not have been overly effective in gaining yards after contact in the regular season, however, it is obvious defenses still very much respect his ability to do so.

    Indeed, Henry was consistently faced by defenses who committed an extra man to the box. Among running backs with at least 100 carries, Henry was fifth in the NFL in percentage of snaps where the opponent had one more man in the defensive box than the offense had in its box.

    Per Stats Perform data, Henry encountered a 'bad box' on 58 per cent of his snaps compared to 48.2 per cent for Foreman. Additionally, on bad box plays where Henry was on the field, the Titans gained 6.05 yards per play but only 5.09 yards when he was off the field in those situations.

    And the Titans excelled at using their opponents' aggressiveness in committing to stopping Henry against them.

    The Titans sold the run to throw a pass on play-action or a quarterback bootleg on 25 per cent of their passing plays in the regular season, the second-highest rate in the NFL and well above the league average of 19 per cent.

    Without Henry, they averaged 7.06 yards per play on play-action and bootleg passes, below the league average of 8.1. With Henry on the field, that figure ballooned to a remarkable 9.94 yards per play.

    Henry's impact as a runner may be somewhat overstated, but his influence on the Titans' offense is not.

    As a player whose reputation precedes him, Henry's mere presence forces defenses to commit more men to the box and helps set up play-action passes on which the Titans averaged almost enough yardage for a first down on every such play when he was healthy in 2021.

    It remains to be seen how effective Henry can be after his lengthy spell on the sidelines, yet the numbers leave no doubt his return does matter. However, he is less important to what has been a consistent rushing attack than he is to a passing game that may need to go blow for blow with Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to avoid a swift playoff exit.

  • Irving inspired by Harden's harsh words as Nets rally Irving inspired by Harden's harsh words as Nets rally

    Kyrie Irving revealed how some stern words from Brooklyn Nets team-mate James Harden provided the catalyst for his fourth-quarter blitz against the San Antonio Spurs.

    The Nets moved into top spot in the Eastern Conference with a hard-fought 117-102 win over the Spurs on Friday.

    While Harden put up 37 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists, Irving had only nine points heading into the final quarter and was scoreless in the third.

    He put that right with a 15-point showing down the stretch and then offered an insight into what had inspired his late flurry.

    "James kind of yelled at me," Irving said. "It's not a negative yell, but he yelled at me, 'Kai, get the f*****g ball!' in the third quarter after he scored [12 points] in the quarter.

    "I kind of took that personal. I just wanted to come out in the fourth quarter in an aggressive mindset and just play within the flow of the offense."

    It was a reaction that saw the shackles thrown off for the Nets, who are now 29-16, and Harden never doubted Irving's ability to turn it on.

    "For sure, it was a breakthrough," said Harden. "He's capable of doing that at any moment and any point in the game.

    "That's one of the reasons why we need him every single game, because he's able to do that, especially with everything that's going on with our team.

    "But he's able and more than capable of doing things like that whenever he wants. I think he just tries to get us involved a little bit more, but he's a special talent.

    "We have a decent rhythm between one another of just getting out of each other's way but also demanding each other to play at that level.

    "When it's us going together and us doing it as a tandem or a duo, it opens up the space for everyone. When we're playing with the unbelievable pace like we were in the fourth quarter, I don't see too many teams that can keep up with that."

  • Rumour Has It: Manchester United pull out of race for Dortmund's Haaland Rumour Has It: Manchester United pull out of race for Dortmund's Haaland

    The race for Erling Haaland's signature will be a huge story in 2022.

    The 21-year-old sensation has interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs.

    Haaland has netted 63 goals in the past 18 months for Borussia Dortmund.

     

    TOP STORY – MAN UTD GIVE UP ON HAALAND

    Manchester United have pulled out of the race to sign Dortmund's Haaland, according to ESPN.

    The Red Devils will focus on alternative attacking options with uncertainty around Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo's futures at the club while Haaland is favouring a move to Real Madrid.

    United have had a long-standing interest in the Norwegian, who has a €75 million (£62m) release clause on his Dortmund contract.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - Manchester City are closing in on a deal for River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez, claims The Telegraph. As part of the imminent deal, Alvarez – who has interest from Milan, Inter and Juventus – will remain with River until June. The fee is expected to be no less than £20m.

    - Liverpool have joined the race to sign Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, according to ESPN. The Reds will rival Dortmund and Bayern Munich who are both keen on the Swiss midfielder.

    - Ajax's Mexico international Edson Alvarez is attracting interest from Premier League trio Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, reports Football Insider.

    - Leeds United have opened contract talks with Brazilian superstar Raphinha,  according to the Daily Star, amid interest from Chelsea and Liverpool .

    - French club Nice are set to offer Tottenham's Bryan Gil a loan deal, according to L'Equipe. The Spaniard has struggled for impact since his move to England.

    - Diario AS claims that Valencia are working on a January deal for Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez .

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